The Swedes love English. They will speak it at the drop of a hat. I often dress very much like an American. That is to say that I’m not a big fan of the pants that show off way too much of my anatomy and the shirts that look like they could be my girlfriends.
On a side note, one of the free newspapers here runs a section where they stop people on the street and ask them where they get their clothes. Which, in my opinion, is a very shallow thing to do but somehow strangely Swedish when you think of the fashion sense the Swedes seem to pride themselves on. Regardless, the newspaper printed a quick little section on a very Swedish looking fellow in Stockholm. He was wearing designer jeans that he probably had to peel off, he was wearing a scarf despite it being the middle of the summer, and his shoes were Chuck Taylor’s. Fair enough. Not really my style but fine. The kicker was the shirt. It was his girlfriend’s. Yup. He was wearing his girlfriend’s shirt. He didn’t say, oh this shirt is from H&M, which would have been a safe answer because the question was where the clothes were from, not who owned them. Nope. He told all of Stockholm that he was wearing his girlfriend’s shirt. I would stretch the hell out of my girlfriend’s shirt if I wore it around town.
Anyway, back to dressing like an American. My cousin says I dress big. Whatever that means. But maybe I do. Countless times I have walked into stores, restaurants, places of business and been greeted with English, “Hello, how can I help you” stuff like that. I seem to confuse people when I go right into Swedish. Sometimes I take it as a bit of an insult. I have worked hard to speak Swedish well so I don’t want to speak English to Swedes. But really the Swedes just want to use their English.
They start learning the language in elementary school and basically study it all through their educational careers. You’d be hard pressed to find a Swede who doesn’t speak English. Especially in Stockholm. Swedish TV is dominated by English speaking programming. English slang is used everywhere. With even little kids saying “shit” and “fuck” which still throws me for a loop (I always have this overwhelming desire to grab them and wash their mouths out with soap). Movies are shown here in their original languages so English language movies just have subtitles.
English is everywhere. Which might be why this country is so attractive to people who want to move to Europe but just don’t want to move to English speaking Europe. They want that feeling of being in a different country with a different language without having to worry too much about getting around. And that’s fair enough. Just remember though, if you make the move at least make an effort to get a base knowledge. It helps. And you won’t miss out on so much, like the news, and funny conversations people have on the trains, and what in the hell the bus driver is saying on the horrible intercom.